The Potato harvest. Pots versus plots.

A few weeks ago, when it was still warm enough to wear shorts and a tee shirt I headed up to my mess of a community garden to start harvesting the vegetable equivalent of a surprise party.

The potatoes.

Potatoes are unlike any other vegetable in that you have NO idea what you have until you dig them up.  Root vegetables in general  are a bit of a mystery, but with beets, carrots, turnips or just about anything else you can see the top of the vegetable growing out of the dirt so you generally know what it is you’ll be pulling out.




The potatoes on the other hand are a complete surprise.  It’s what makes them the fun vegetable.  Well that and their willingness to be up for pretty much anything.  Bake? Fry? Scallop? Mash? Roast? YEAH!  I’m a POTATO!!!  I’m down with it all! 




The odd time you’ll come across a less than cooperative potato that decides it’s had enough of hanging out with you.  It lets you know of it’s wish to liberate itself from your custody by self destructing into a liquidy pile of foul smelling goo.




As I was saying, I went up to my community garden to dig up my regular potatoes a few weeks ago.  I grew them 2 different ways this year with a few side experiments.

I grew them in containers, and I grew them in regular, slightly raised beds.




The raised beds are a HUGE pain to dig up.  I tried using my U Bar but the spaces between the tines were too big and didn’t bring up any actual potatoes. It did do a good job of loosening the soil though.



The thing about digging up potatoes is you’re gonna cut them in half if you use a shovel.  But … I used a shovel.  It’s the only way to get all of them up.  Unless your soil is so loose that you can just pull the whole potato plant up, you’re going to have to sacrifice some potatoes.  If they’re big enough and you injure or cut them in half all you have to do is let them scab over and they’ll be fine.




They won’t last as long in storage as an unharmed potato, so just use the ones that you mutilated first.

I also experimented with not hilling some of my potatoes.  When you read about growing potatoes the first thing you inevitably read is that you have to “hill” them.  So as they grow you keep adding soil or straw around them to allow more potatoes to grow presumably.  I’ve always hilled.  This year … I took a chance on a few areas and didn’t hill just to see what would happen.  Nothing happened.  I got the exact same potato production whether I religiously  hilled the plants with straw or not.




My raised beds produced a LOT of potatoes.  One might describe it as an insane amount for a single gal to be growing but you never know when you’re going to have to make a 64 pound  gnocchi.  You just don’t know.

I got around 50 pounds of potatoes from my 8′ x 4′ plot, planting one seed potato per square foot.  Not a huge return but way more potatoes than I’ll ever need.  And yet.  I couldn’t leave it at just that when I was planting in the spring.  I had to plant another 4 smaller beds of potatoes.

Plus a few pots of them.

Because of that whole possible gnocchi thing.




Compared to the potted potatoes the raised bed plants were a huge success.

Granted, harvesting potatoes from pots is way easier because all you have to do is dump the pot out and pick out your potatoes.  At least that’s what the Internet would have you believe.  In reality a pot big enough to grow potatoes in is quite heavy when it’s filled with soil believe it or not.  One can’t pick it up and dump it out so much as lean, push, swear and cry over it before finally relenting and digging the soil out by hand.

Once you dig a bunch of the dirt out by hand the pot will be light enough to tip over providing you have a very large grunt in you.




For me the planters didn’t yield a very big harvest. About half of what a regular planting would have.  It could have been because I had 3 plants per pot which was too much for such a small space, or it could be because potatoes like to be cool and plants in pots are always hotter than plants  in the ground.




If you only have space for a container of potatoes then it’s a great way to go.  But if you have the space and garden to grow them in the ground that’s what I’d tell you to do.





I had a few beds dedicated to potatoes and 3 big pots in which I grew Kennebecs, Russets, Banana Fingerlings, Chieftains and Peruvian Purple potatoes, which as it turns out are about the healthiest thing in the world you could eat if you’re looking to fight cancer.

In total I dedicated 61 square feet to my potato; my love.  I got 100 pounds of potatoes from it.

This is what 100 pounds of potatoes looks like.




Come spring, I’ll show you what a person who has eaten 100 pounds of potatoes looks like.  I suspect the only difference between that and the above photo will be the lumpy bumps will be accompanied by a big smile.


  1. Renee says:

    I saw this technique online somewhere, and it seemed interesting. You take the potato you wish to plant, and make a hole in the side of it. You thread your tomato plant through it, and then plant it deeply, with the tater on it’s side. Supposedly when you pull your tomato plants up in the fall – BOOM potato crop in the same spot. For those tater experts – I have never grown taters, would this actually work?

  2. A guy says:

    Read “The Martian” first, then go see the movie. Of course, the book is much more detailed and funny, but the movie is fairly true to the book. But hearing the music he has to listen to on Mars is better than reading it.

  3. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I know how protective you are with your potatoes Karen…that is an awesome harvest…enjoy eating them this cold Winter when we are eating crappy spuds from the store…

  4. Liz says:

    thanks for linking that gnocchi post! I missed it, and you made it so plain and less intimidating to try

  5. mimiindublin says:

    Can I come live with you? I LOVE potatoes! There is no way that I don’t like them.. I’ll bring my Remoska cooker, it makes amazing baked potatoes.

  6. You’ve inspired me to give it a try next spring. I want to grow okra next spring too!

  7. Briony says:

    So the big question is: Have you seen The Martian? Also a great book. That guy has some serious potato growing skills. It’s amazing how much gardening you can fit into a space movie if you try.

    • Karen says:

      I haven’t but I can’t WAIT to see it. I didn’t even realize it was a book. Maybe I should read it instead of watch it. Reading it’s always better. But maybe I’ll watch it. You’ve really throw a wrench into my day here Briony. ~ karen!

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        It is a very good movie and worth going to a theatre to see it in 3D. Some movies you can wait and get the dvd free from the library but others need the really BIG screen. This is one of them. Karen, if you go to Silvercity on the east mountain (that’s local-speak) you can choose and reserve your sear(s) in advance and on-line and then just waltz in like you own the place.

      • KTMonk says:

        I read the book and saw the movie in 3D, and I highly suggest you read the book before you see the movie, if you can. There are several (important, I thought) parts left out of the movie and I found the book to be quite a bit more emotional. The movie is good, though!

  8. Debbie says:

    …kay….was hoping someone would have already asked this question….I consulted the google, but didn’t find anything. What’s a U Bar?

    • cbblue says:

      I konw I know! It’s a wide, big fork looking thing used for harvesting. Karen is using it in one of her pictures. I believe they can be purchased from Lee Valley.

      • Karen says:

        LOL. It’s actually a big wide thing that’s used for cultivating soil. It’s not really meant for digging things up. It’s great for loosening soil in the spring after it’s become compact. Here I am using it this spring. It’s also called a broadfork. Which is ironic because most broads aren’t big enough to use it. ~ karen!

  9. Leslie says:

    Super helpful information!! Thank you!

  10. Ev Wilcox says:

    Going to try the purple ones next year! Your harvest is wonderful-thanks for the great photos! What a lot of work though! My hero!

  11. Barbie says:

    Your potatoes are beautiful Karen! We have not gotten a good potato harvest in two years…..not sure what is going on. I’m envious of your gorge potatoes!

  12. Andrea says:

    Ahhh Ha!!!!Thank you for posting your results! My husband and I have had this debate going for a couple of years now since someone told him you can grow potatoes in a composter. We do raised beds and as much as he loves the gardens, he was a city kid without a clue. I am the gardener. He is the tour guide when people come over! I have grown Yukon gold and russets the past 4 years. Yes I avoid hilling too. I get great results but now handy husband has bought a used solarium off of kijii to convert into a greenhouse. He is very talented on stuff like that. Unfortunately it will go up right where the potatoes go! So hubby thinks composter growing is going to be the option. I am quietly searching the yard for a new potato patch. We live in town on a corner so it’s going to have to look pretty and be functional. A border of marigolds and purslane it is. Thanks to your published results I have no faith in the composter method now. However…we know I will have to try at least one to prove my point to him. You probably already knew this but dumping extra bags of playground sand in your potato patch and carrots makes harvesting so much easier. The dirt literally falls away from the vegetables. Your posts are my morning highlight with coffee…anything we can learn to do ourselves, the better. You Karen.. are an awesome teacher!

  13. Melissa in NC says:

    Very cool! Congrats on your 100 lb. harvest. I by accident have grown sweet potatoes only because I planted a sweet potato vines in containers. The potatoes were mammoth in size.

  14. Karin says:

    ah, the potato harvest, yours is astonishing, it’s a great inspiration to give it a go for real next time around.
    mine was cut short, because i… uhm, kinda forgot about them. i used purple ones in small containers like in your first picture and Russian fingerlings in a huge trash barrel.
    it was a pitiful sight really: me getting the notion to dig em all up at night with a flashlight and my bare hands cause they looked just about dead. dirt flying everywhere, manic cackle if I happened upon one lonesome sput. cars started slowing down, many heads were scratched….
    i was happy with the purple nurples, I made an amazing salad with chickpeas, leeks, green onions and tons of dill with em. that’s really all I got out of them, one meal.
    the fingerlings didn’t make it sadly, quite disappointing to get a handful of m&m sized tatters from a 32 gallon bucket.
    but who’s to blame but me and my forgetfulness. in my defense, it was my first ever attempt to grow em.
    which I owe of course, to you, dear.

    • Karen says:

      Well now that you see what can happen I expect you to pay attention to your potatoes next year. I’ll be checking up on you! Glad you gave it a shot this year. You’re officially a member of the spud club. ~ karen!

      • Karin says:

        *snapstoattention* yes ma’am, thank you ma’am, it’s a great honor *paraderest* you shall not be dissapointed *brisknod*


        • IRS says:

          Yeah, I’ll just send hubby to Whole Foods to get the purple spuds. Hopefully they will have them, because I haven’t seen them in the regular grocery stores; you know, the ones that don’t have a loans officer at the entrance. This spud farmin’ sounds like waaaay too much work. The only way I might consider growing them is if I can get ahold of one of those amazing hybrids that grows tomatoes on top, and taters below the soil. No joke – these apparently exist, since both plants are part of the same family. In fact, that is your mission for next year, Karen: get some of these plants and grow them. If you can get a harvest out of them, and eating it doesn’t turn you into a mutant zombie, then I will give them a go.

  15. Carolyn says:

    Karen, I’m amazed at how well you’ve kept up your blog posts, “what with the harvest & all”.

    Awesome potato harvest! Wish I had the space for it.

    • Karen says:

      LOL! Believe me, it hasn’t been easy! Fall is insane! Harvest, can, freeze, clean up, order firewood, stack firewood, Thanksgiving, more fall clean up, save seeds … Donald Trump doesn’t know how easy he has it with his life of luxury. ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        Hey, don’t hate on poor Donald! It takes a lot of time and effort to run your mouth enough to get so many people to hate you. That takes as much commitment as you have to your garden. And besides, didn’t you hear how he has demanded that future debates be no longer than 2 hours? Apparently he had a really, really, hard time standing for the whole 3 hours that the last one took, and has said he won’t participate in future debates unless he is guaranteed they won’t run over 2 hours. It’s not easy being rich and obnoxious; he’s used to being carried everywhere on a gilded litter held aloft by the 4 Mexicans he could find who are NOT drug-dealing rapists.

        • TucsonPatty says:

          Ha! Too, too awesome and true! Love it! As always, love your thought process and posts, Karen. IRS – I also am one of your comment fan club. Too funny and I love your snarky snarkity snark!

  16. Jillian says:

    Love growing potatoes! Unfortunately, they give me migraines so I can’ t eat them. I thought purple potatoes would be ok for me since they are dark in color so I grew them. Have not tried to eat them yet.

    I purchased the purple potato heirloom seed spuds from an online organic company. Funny thing is when the tops grew they also grew “potato balls”. It kind of freaked me out so had to look it up to see what they were. They are true seeds of the potato and in the old days it was normal to have these seed balls and that was what people used to grow their spuds. Now potatoes have been so hybridized most do not have balls LOL I am saving them for next year so I can try and grow from them. If you are interested, and want to experiment, I can mail some to you.

    Have you ever tried growing potatoes in old tires? A woman on Freecylce was giving away her potato tires and all her compost so I snatched them up and have been using them to grow ever since. Kind of like container gardening but bigger on the inside. I find golf cart tires are the best to use since they are really wide or tall depending on how you look at them. I had never heard of it before her giveaway but find it is ideal. If you like, I can send photos along with the harvest of 1 tire.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jillian! I’ve always been a bit freaked out by growing in rubber tires. I actually don’t think it would even be allowed at my community garden. Rubber tires are pretty toxic. I too get potato balls, lol. I can’t be bothered to save them and just buy new seed potatoes every year but would love to hear how they did for you next year! ~ karen

      • Jillian says:

        Hi Karen,

        Yes, I was concerned about growing in rubber too. I only do organic as consciously as possible. When I researched this is what I found “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a wealth of information about scrap tires, their potential harm, and how to properly recycle and reuse them. It lists two major concerns about harmful chemicals from tires, but only as a result of either burning them or shredding them into mulch. It shows no potential harm resulting from planting in tires. In fact, they even have a picture of some veggies growing in tires! ” As long as you don’t set your garden on fire or throw your tires into a chipper by accident it is all good!

        I’ll let you know how my potato balls are growing next season! lol Love how nature is full of surprises and teaches me something new all the time. And these are the same reasons I love your site and what you do! Thank you for having such cool posts! I forward them to everyone I know who I would think is interested.

        Happy harvest, Jillian

        • Karen says:

          Hey! Good to know Jillian. Admittedly I haven’t researched it I’ve just based my opinion on tire burning stink. And thanks for forwarding my posts. That’s the major way I get new readers and the major way I can stay in business. ;) ~ karen!

  17. Jody says:

    I’ve grown potatoes in black fabric sacs I bought from Lee Valley. I planted fingerling potatoes and was happy with the yield given the fact I plant the seed potatoes and then essentially forget about them.

    Karen will you be joining the local food trucks selling various concoctions of potatoes?

  18. Ann says:

    I did potatoes in my raised beds this spring and did not hill. Got 35lbs out of 4 seed potatoes so I was thrilled with that. I never had any luck with container planting. I think potatoes like good drainage and even moisture, along with cool soil and containers can rarely provide that.

    My sweet potato harvest was amazing. Probably about 100lbs from 4 plants.

    Don’t be afraid of the fat. Deep fry those taters in expeller pressed coconut oil. Gives them awesome crispness and there is no coconut flavor. Actually the fat is better for our health than the taters themselves. No less than perfect, quasi-fried taters for me. We did sweet potato fries yesterday and my husband thought he had died and gone to heaven

    • Karen says:

      It’s not the fat per say so much as the massive amount of calories in the fat. I’d eat french fries every night if I could but by deep frying them I can’t. obviously, lol. So that’s the only reason I’d give the TFal a try. So I could eat french fries every day like I did in highschool. :) What I do NOT like about it is its size. The Tfal is huge and I have nowhere to store something that big! ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        Hey, it’s not that huge! We keep ours out on the counter because hubby loves to toss things into it to reheat, but I admit we have a lot of counter space. But so do you! I’ve seen that giant egg crate you have no trouble keeping out in full view; it’s big enough to serve as a condo for an Irish Wolfhound. Because I like you, I put down my martini long enough to measure it for you. It is 12 inches across, and just under 8 inches high. It is basically round, but because it has the motor in an extension at the back, it is 17 inches front to back. You can keep it sideways at the back of your counter quite easily. It won’t even impede traffic when little Cutlet goes for a stroll across your counters.

  19. Garth says:

    Lovely spuds. What variety did you grow in the raised bed please? They obviously had the good sense to keep their heads underground and away from the sun. My Kennebecs aren’t that smart.
    I’ve been converting my garden to a ‘no dig’ system. (see Eliot Coleman and Paul Gautchi – Back to Eden) Great results… except for the spuds. I plant them on top of the earth on a 16″ grid, cover with a mound of compost, let them grow until they need “hilling”, then I add more compost. No more hilling is possible after that because the plants are simply too big. As the plants die down, I then try to mulch with last years leaf collection… except this year I was trotting around Europe for a month when the spuds said I should be home tending them. LOTS of sun-scalded spuds when I returned… EXCEPT FOR THE BEAUTIFUL NICOLA variety which had the good sense to stay underground. Nicola is new to Canada and is great for diabetics because they have a low glycemic index and even lower glycemic load. They also produced about a 15:1 yield. My 15′ x 25′ plot yielded about 400 lbs. of taters. We have a good cold cellar so the storage isn’t a problem. BTW, a good stout garden fork is great for harvesting – if you have to dig. Best part about ‘no dig’ gardening is – well – not digging.

    • Karen says:

      I have that book, I’ll take a look again at it. (Eliot Coleman’s books) I have used a fork for digging as well and instead of slicing my potatoes in half, I just end up spearing them all, lol. I grew a few different varieties in the raised beds. Kennebecs (you’re right they can get close to the surface), Russet, the Banana fingerlings, Chiefton’s and the Peruvian Purple. Guess you’re just going to have to stop galavanting. ;) ~ karen

  20. Sally says:

    You are lucky you made it out of that potato patch alive without another gardener, coming stealing your potatoes, and hitting you over the head with them while they ran away laughing maniacally….because that’s what I would have done for ANY of those potatoes! Yum!

    I know you have perfected the french fry, but what about homemade potato chips?! I can already feel the experiment brewing….;)

    • Karen says:

      I used to make homemade potato chips but they’re a lot of work for … well … not nearly enough potato chips by my standards. Cooking them in the microwave is always fun for show. They get crispy and perfect. ~ karen!

  21. IRS says:

    Growing any vegetable is work, but just reading about your potato efforts made me so tired, I could barely shake my second martini. Clearly, regular veggie gardening is to potato gardening, what painting the spare room is to hoisting the whole house up 2 feet, in order to get a higher basement ceiling. In other words, unless you’re growing those purple anti-tumour spuds, way more trouble than it’s worth. Especially since potatoes are pretty darn cheap to buy. That inground tater plot looks like you buried the Fella in there, and if you had, it would be less work than harvesting potatoes from it.

    And by the way, I couldn’t help noticing the huge bunch of sun flowers in your 4th photo. It looks like they were planted by your nearest neighbour. Does he know you hate them? Is that why he planted them there? And do you lob your suicidal spuds that have turned into a “liquidy pile of foul smelling goo” straight at his head, while hiding behind one of your giant tater pots?

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      Hey IRS, I noticed the same thing about the sun flowers (which I happen to really like . . . who wouldn’t?) but hadn’t thought of the lobbing rotten potatoes idea. How evil yet brilliant. The smell of them is unrivalled by anything in the vegetable kingdom. I do so look forward to your comments. Hope that isn’t too creepy.

      • Linda Weber says:

        Ha hopefully not creepy as I too enjoy IRS’s comments!

      • IRS says:

        Thanks, Jan and Linda. No, not creepy at all; certainly not nearly as creepy as most of my comments are in the first place. :D My brain follows very perverse thought patterns. When Karen mentioned the “foul smelling goo”, it immediately brought to mind my neighbour’s crab apple tree, which overhangs into my yard. It drops plenty of rotten crab apples that smell pretty foul. I collect them and use a homemade slingshot to fire them at the damn squirrels that dig up my pots. Those fancy-tailed rodents are especially bad around this time of year. Although I have great aim, I deliberately miss, since I don’t want to actually hit one. I have a feeling that Karen has pretty good aim too, and unlike brainless rodents, humans are fair game for rotting produce. But I agree with you about sunflowers; they are quite nice. However, any excuse to behave badly should seriously be considered. And she is tiny enough to hide behind those pots.

        • Jan in Waterdown says:

          Squirrels?? Just tarted up rats imho, although my husband says I’ve never had a humble opinion in my life, but what does he know . . .
          Maybe you could use that homemade slingshot to launch one or two of the little buggers into outer space? I saw something like that on youtube a long time ago. Someone had set it up on their balcony. Freekin’ hilarious! Disclaimer for any posters tempted to call me a bad name (based on a previous raccoon comment of mine), I do not advocate harming animals. :-)

        • IRS says:

          I consider squirrels to be the Kardashians of the animal world – all tail, no brains, and they think the whole world belongs to them. Being an animal lover, I would never hurt one, but it does take restraint, especially when I have repotted the same plant 3 times in one day because of their stupid digging sprees. They are like your dimwitted and annoying 2nd cousin who you only see at Thanksgiving; you tolerate him because you aren’t allowed to kill him, but you harbour dark fantasies of offing him with a potato masher.

        • Jan in Waterdown says:

          No dimwitted and annoying 2nd cousins in MY family but I do recall my sister’s ex who would announce that he hadn’t eaten all day to justify taking seconds and thirds and all the gravy, then leaving it uneaten. Death by potato masher would have been too kind. I’m not bitter. No. I’m not. Well maybe a tad.
          Ok we better stop now or Karen’s gonna come after us with a potato masher.
          Btw, love the Kardashian analogy!

        • holly says:

          I consider squirrels to be the Kardashians of the animal world – all tail, no brains, and they think the whole world belongs to them….one of the funniest and most true statements I have ever read! I so appreciate it..going thru some of my darkest days. My beloved Chocolate Lab diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I’m devastated beyond words. This actually made me laugh for the first time in my delirious, sleep-deprived days.

        • IRS says:

          Oh, Holly, my heart breaks for you. I am a dog fanatic, but Chocolate Labs are one of my most favourite breeds. I especially love their beautiful, expressive faces and their brown (not black) noses, and the fact that they are spirited, intelligent, occasionally stubborn, but always loving and loyal. I lost a dog to pancreatitis when he was only 9. He was just a little guy, a spirited little bugger of a Maltese, and it was just heartrending. Anyone who truly loves dogs knows that they are just as loved by the likes of you and I as our 2 legged family members; perhaps even more, since people often disappoint, but dogs almost never do. I don’t know what the prognosis for your little Lab is, but if and when you have to say goodbye, please know that you are in my thoughts, as is your beloved friend. Please be good to yourself, and allow yourself time to get over the grief, and remember the joy.

        • holly says:

          IRS – thank you so much. You described my dog perfectly..he is my best friend. I can tell you love dogs as much as I do. Turning 9 in November. Been healthy his whole short life, and then had a gran mal seizure in front of me that I never wish to witness again..brought on by low blood glucose, brought on by the tumor. Prognosis is 3 – 6 months, so I’m giving him all my love even more than usual. I will not let him suffer. He has never ever disappointed me..just a great, beautiful, loving, smart, sweet, goofy (and bow-legged) guy. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m pretty much a shell-shocked, soppy mess.

        • Karen says:

          Holly, I’m so sorry. I know the pain you are experiencing now. But my Black Lab, Mia, sends her love and support, as do I.

        • holly says:

          Karen, thank you so much. Aren’t labs great! He had a good day today. Tell Mia thank you, too!

        • Mia says:

          “Just tarted up rats”…just too funny. Best description ever!

  22. Beautiful! Wonderful potato harvest! Home grown is always better. Enjoy!

  23. Alexandra says:

    Congrats on your potatoes, they look great!

    Maybe it’s just me, but 100 pounds of potatoes for one person over a whole season doesn’t sound like all that much. Ok, at first it did, but then I converted it to kg, and honestly – it’s not that much! And I don’t even eat very much potatoes, I think.

  24. Dagmar says:

    Mmmm, fresh grown fingerlings. With the skin on. Melted butter. Fresh dill from my grandparent’s garden. And a fresh cucumber salad, with dressing of: sour cream +fresh lemon juice and salt+ pepper, and green onions on top. Thank you so much Karen! Your blog always brings me back to the tastes and smells of my happiest carefree days of childhood. <3

    …oh, and I love the harvest table, I now have a new wallpaper screen for my computer, so fun -:)

  25. whitequeen96 says:

    Hey, you look better than in the last photos of you in your community garden. No dark roots! You’re our very own Nordic goddess again; obviously the Harvest Goddess!

    Seriously, I’m so impressed with your haul! And thanks for the info about the health benefits of purple potatoes. Do they need to be cooked differently, and do they taste like regular Idaho potatoes?

  26. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Do you not grow sweet potatoes?

  27. gloria says:

    What a crap harvest of potatoes I got this year. All of mine were in containers as in other years (which did pretty well), bushel baskets, galvanized tubs and even a hollowed out tree stump. I tried the straw for hilling up method this year. The tops grew like gang busters all summer long. Flowered and kept on growing. When I finally could stand it no longer, I dug them up. A couple containers had bupkiss. And what I did get amounted to one meal’s worth. I grew all reds. What the heck happened???

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gloria! I’m not in love with using straw (as you now know). For one thing once it gets wet it has a tendency to stay wet so if you’ve used a lot of straw your potato plants can rot. If yours got yellow and wilty as opposed to just dying on you it could be they were water logged. Straw in combination with a container that doesn’t have reallyyyy good drainage can be the kiss of death for potatoes. The vines just get waterlogged and rot right off. Other than that it could just be a matter of not letting them grow enough. Potatoes are starting to really grow once you see the flowers on the vine. They’ll be small potatoes 2-3 weeks after the flowering. You need another month or so after flowering to produce actual big potatoes. So you may have planted too late and dug up too early. ~ karen!

      • gloria says:

        Yup, I considered all the things you mentioned and none of them were the case with any of my containers. All had lots and lots of of drainage and great looking plants. I left them to grow at least a month after they flowered. The ones that actually yielded any spuds grew only one potato per plant even though there were plenty of eyes on each pc. I planted. I read somewhere that certain varieties will do that. Personally, I think the potato pixies heisted them. Next year, I guess I’ll plant in the ground. Ironically, I have two healthy plants growing in the compost pile. Until the pixies find them.

  28. Nicole says:

    We grew russets and chieftains this year successfully without hilling. We haven’t been enjoying eating the chieftains even though they are perfectly firm and holding up well in storage. What do you use your chieftains for?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nicole. Red potatoes are my favourite for quartering and roasting. The potato portion stays creamy and the skin gets crispy. Perfect roasting potatoes. For extra crispiness roast them in duck fat. It makes a huge difference in how crisp your skins get. ~ karen!

  29. Kathleen says:

    Oh how marvellous… home grown is always better.

    Enjoy the fruits of your labour.

    Have a superb day.

  30. Tiredoldwoman says:

    Gosh Karen , I’m really impressed with your potato growing , so much so I think I’ll have a go myself ! You make life look so easy .

  31. sandra says:

    Your potato harvest is amazing and beautiful. Your post reminds me of summer visits to Idaho to see my great grandmother. Our job as kids was to dig up enough potatoes for dinner and breakfast in the morning. nothing tastes as good as something grown in your own garden.

  32. Paula says:

    I did the same thing with the experiments and my results were the opposite. I used 30L black free nursery pots and I averaged about 8lbs per pot. The raised bed wasn’t bad but not nearly as productive and the potatoes were smaller. Some I planted in the ground in another area of the yard and they were fabulous – huge, I had a few that were over 1lb each!
    I bought a T-Fal Actifry and it uses only 1 tbsp of oil for french fries. My 96 lbs of potatoes is already down to about 40ish. lol

    • Karen says:

      I’ve been curious about the Actifry for YEARS now. Maybe I’ll shell out the dough for one and do a product review. So SHHH. Don’t tell me what it’s like. But if you’ve consumed 50 pounds of potatoes I can guess, lol. ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        I have one, and I like it, but the marketing folks at T-Fal are a bunch of lying little weasels. It’s not really a fryer at all – it’s a convection oven with a little paddle that turns around the pan. The French fries are slowly stirred around, while hot air blowing around cooks them. The small amount of oil that you add allows you to get a bit of a crispy exterior. The fries out of this thing taste pretty good, and are certainly much healthier than dumping raw fries into a volcano of boiling oil, but if you are a fry purist, you might be disappointed. But since it is essentially a convection cooker that is self stirring, it is great for making risotto. Oops, I wasn’t supposed to say anything, right? Oh well, you will make up your own mind.

      • Phyllis Kraemer says:

        We had one at the store…it makes great fries…just like it says it does…we were pleasantly surprised!!

  33. Auntiepatch says:


  34. Sarah says:

    Another great post, Karen – you’re on a roll! Just because it seems like it might be up your alley — though not really, because you’re no longer a “hill-er”, I guess — I invented the trenching method (TM), as I don’t have enough extra soil to hill. I dig a big, long trench, “hilling” the soil on either side. I dig down and plant the potatoes at the bottom of the trench. Then, as they grow, I fill in the trench bit by bit… I have a related technique for planting things under my big trees where there are so many roots that you can’t (and shouldn’t) dig down. My husband calls it the “hump method” :-) : just plant things rignt on the grown and ‘hump up’ the soil around them. Night night!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Sarah! And that’s exactly what I do, lol. I dig a 12″ or so deep trench and then cover the potatoes with a few inches of soil. 6″ maybe. Then fill the trench in. I’ll still be doing that, I just won’t be constantly hilling and hilling after the trench is filled in. ~ karen!

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